Sony announces PlayStation Music, shutting down Music Unlimited and some Vita apps

Sony has announced that they are discontinuing their Music Unlimited streaming service. You might not even realize Sony has a streaming service; Music Unlimited never seemed to gain traction and frankly, I never found it to be very good. The web interface always felt pretty clunky and at least when the PlayStation 4 launched, the Music Unlimited app seemed to work only sporadically.

Maybe I'm just unlucky, but for whatever reason Sony is throwing in the towel on its in-house service. The good news is that they're replacing Music Unlimited with PlayStation Music, and PlayStation Music is going to be powered by Spotify.

In fact as far as I can ascertain from the announcement, PlayStation Music could just as well be called Spotify on PlayStation. It seems like you'll be able to link your PlayStation and Spotify accounts and access all your Spotify playlists. You can use PlayStation Music whether you're a free or a premium Spotify member. So what's the difference between PlayStation Music and Spotify? I'm not seeing one, though I'm not a Spotify user so maybe there are nuances I'm missing. I guess we'll know more as we get closer to launch.

I can't resist the temptation of comparing PlayStation Music to the recently released Pandora on Xbox One. In this particular battle, Sony comes out clearly ahead. PlayStation Music (based on what we know now) will let you set up and use playlists, and you'll be able to listen to music while gaming without making any compromises. (On the Xbox One you have to 'snap' Pandora to one side and devote about 20% of your screen real estate to it if you want to listen while playing a game.) This is one of the few times a PS4 media feature outclasses a similar feature on the Xbox One.

PlayStation Music will initially be available on the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and Xperia smartphones and tablets. While there's no official launch date, Music Unlimited is shutting down on March 29th, 2015 and it's safe to assume Sony will want PlayStation Music in place by then.

PlayStation Vita owners who are fans of Music Unlimited are being left out in the cold, it seems. As of March 29th, 2015 these users won't have either the old or the new streaming music service available.

And that's not all that Vita owners are losing. Yesterday Sony announced that the Vita YouTube app will no longer be supported as of April 20th, 2015, and the app is no longer available from the PlayStation store. Sony suggests using the Vita's web browser to visit YouTube's mobile site. It seems like if you already have the YouTube app it'll still work past April 20th, Sony just won't support it if YouTube changes something and the app breaks. Hopefully that won't happen.

In a separate announcement Sony also revealed that the Vita Maps app will be removed in a firmware update coming in March. When that happens location-based features of the Vita's odd Near social app will also stop functioning.

I'm not sure how many Vita owners will miss Vita Maps but I think the YouTube app support is something of a loss. Pure speculation on my part, but these two changes both involve Google and I can't help but wonder if it's some kind of licensing issue. Whatever the reason, and no matter how justified the decision may be (not that we have any way of knowing if its justified or not), some Vita fans are seeing this as another sign Sony is abandoning their beloved platform. I guess it's hard to love the Vita and not wind up with at least a bit of a video gaming persecution complex.

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